Legal Sea Foods permanently closes two locations, moving ahead with insurance lawsuit

Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Legal Sea Foods is permanently closing two of its 33 restaurants, and may be forced to close others in the future, as it becomes the latest foodservice victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the restaurant chain is “cautiously optimistic” that its lawsuit against its insurance company over failure to cover business losses from the pandemic will move forward, Legal President and CEO Roger Berkowitz told SeafoodSource.

The chain opted not to renew leases for its eateries in Crystal City, Virginia, and 704 7th Street Northwest in Washington, District of Columbia, Berkowitz said.

“The pandemic has forced us to look at what are the most appropriate locations to [re-open]. Some are surrounded by hotels and airports, which handicaps them, and they are not the best to reopen right away,” Berkowitz said.

Legal now has 13 locations open, including two airport restaurants.

While the restaurant chain “loved” being close to hotels, an airport, and office space in Crystal City, “unfortunately, it is the perfect storm to be impacted by COVID-19,” Berkowitz said. 

Legal’s suburban locations have been doing “pretty great,” as the chain gradually re-opens those eateries. “That’s where the residents are and that’s where people feel most comfortable dining out,” Berkowitz said.

Legal’s restaurant in Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., will likely re-open in November, while its Boston Logan International Airport restaurant is expected to open in September or October.

“The airport authorities have been stellar landlords. We were going to open a little earlier in Reagan National, and they suggested holding off until November when enplanments are going up,” Berkowitz said. “Airlines are likely going to be the last to come back up, but they will come up strong – maybe with not as much business travel, but more leisure travel.”

Legal is continuing to analyze reopening restaurants when leases are up for renewal, Berkowitz said.

“The universe of restaurants is going to be smaller. There are going to be fewer people choosing to eat out as regularly as they once did. It makes sense to look at having a smaller footprint,” Berkowitz said.

Pivoting in response, Legal is focused on retail and e-commerce opportunities during the pandemic, he said.

The company also continues to pursue legal action against insurer Strathmore, which denied the restaurant company’s claim for significant losses due to COVID-19.

“We filed our charges, and the insurance company filed their motions; now it is up to the judge to either move the case forward or dismiss the charges,” Berkowitz said.

Because a case very similar to Legal’s lawsuit proceeded recently, “we are cautiously optimistic that it will continue to move forward,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Legal Sea Foods


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